Sigur Rós - Odin’s Raven Magic Music Album Reviews

Sigur Rós - Odin’s Raven Magic Music Album Reviews
The Icelandic post-rockers waver between exuberance and heavy-handed melodrama on the first official recording of an 18-year-old operatic work based on a centuries-old medieval poem.

The end of the world looms as Odin, Norse deity of war and death, joins his fellow gods for a banquet. His trusty ravens, Huginn and Muninn, traverse barren fields, gathering the world’s wisdom while the gods feast and watch for omens. This portentous meal is the subject of a poem written in the traditional style of Edda, the collection of Icelandic mythology and prose dating back to the 13th century, and of Sigur Rós’s Odin’s Raven Magic. On the eight-part operatic work, the Icelandic band funnels its serene, immersive style into theatrical storytelling, evoking a lively yet uneasy scene with eerie harmony and cinematic scope that wavers between exuberance and heavy-handed melodrama.
Odin’s Raven Magic is something of a myth itself—though Sigur Rós first performed it live 18 years ago, it’s never received a proper recording. Before now, only fragments of the lengthy work hovered around the internet, captured by eager audiences at crowded shows. This uninterrupted rendition was recorded live in 2004 at La Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris; you might forget it’s a live performance until the end, when the music fades away and applause erupts.

Trading their signature bowed guitar for bowed orchestral instruments, Sigur Rós approach the long history of operas that borrow from mythology with a sense of tranquility. This music swims through melancholy and euphoria, full of grand melodies fit for a Game of Thrones feature film. The strongest moments come when there’s motion, like on “Prologus,” which highlights the orchestra’s subtle shifts between dissonance and consonance, and “Spár eða spakmál,” where a swooping choir, booming horn, and urgent percussion build a sense of exhilaration.

Sigur Rós’ performance is skilled, but their commitment to placidity limits the album’s dramatic capability. Such a menacing tale demands tumultuous color, and opera provides the perfect inspiration for over-the-top storytelling. “Stendur æva” could’ve come as a punch in the gut, but instead a lackluster choir and lilting vocals leave it feeling oversaturated. By illustrating mythology with even-keeled sound rather than diving into its turbulence, Sigur Rós glosses over the magnitude of the catastrophe they’re trying to describe.

The star of Odin’s Raven Magic, besides its folklore, is the twinkling marimba that appears throughout. This isn’t a regular marimba: Built by Páll Guðmundsson, it replaces the usual wooden slats with Icelandic stones, swapping an earthy tone for an icy one. The instrument pops in and out with a delicate, pulsating rhythm that provides an exigent backdrop, subtle yet omnipresent, like a ticking doomsday clock. It’s a recurring theme that makes its first appearance on the sing-songy “Dvergmál,” where gradual layering and generous drums create the record’s truest synthesis of post-rock sensibility and minimalist austerity. The marimba anchors the spacious sound, reminding us of the impending peril that lies beneath the serenity.

Sigur Rós’s music has always felt panoramic, and Odin’s Raven Magic is no different; its sweeping melodies harken back to landmark albums like Ágætis byrjun, but this time, the music foregrounds orchestra and choir. When the sprawling sound becomes overwhelming, it’s the hidden details that prove most tantalizing, telling the album’s story beneath the wandering melodies. Sigur Rós may be more commonly associated with relaxation, but when they allow elements like Guðmundsson’s anxious marimba to drive their music, the feeling lingers.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Sigur Rós - Odin’s Raven Magic Music Album Reviews Sigur Rós - Odin’s Raven Magic Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, December 14, 2020 Rating: 5

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